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February 28, 2003
3 Min Read
The moldmaking unit of Gefit SpA makes some of the fastest injection molds in the world for mineral-water and soft-drink bottlecaps. Several major mineral-water suppliers in Italy make caps on Gefit molds. Every cap maker in Italy has at least one Gefit mold, except those with their own moldmaking facilities, but even some of them are apparently beginning to call on Gefit.
It’s easy to see why. At K 2001, Gefit unveiled a 64-cavity mold for still-water bottlecaps that operated on a 3-s cycle on a 3500-kN (393-ton) press. The mold can make up to 500 million caps/yr, so it generated much interest. Gefit also presented the prototype of a mold that produces caps with integral seals using the core-back technique. A 64-cavity tool can run on a 3000-kN machine.
Such caps traditionally have been made in two stages, by making the cap and the seal on separate machines and then bringing them together. Alternatively, rotating molds are used. On the Gefit mold, the seal is made first, then the core retreats, and the cap is molded onto it. Molding cycle time is 7.5 s, and the caps come out of the mold ready for bottling. Gefit has delivered three such molds outside Europe.
Gefit was founded in 1968. It is part of the Guala Group, which is known for its non-refillable pouring caps for alcoholic beverage bottles, as well as several innovative soft-drink packaging designs.
The moldmaking unit is part of Gefit’s plastics division. (Gefit also has a second, larger division that makes automated assembly lines, a little over half of them for automotive applications.) The unit employs about 65 and generates about €10 million in sales, which have tripled in the last three years. Based outside Alessandria, in northwest Italy, it has a sub-components operation in Hungary.
In 2002, it made over 1000 mold cavities for caps, and production for 2003 is expected to remain the same. Gefit also makes hot runners for its molds unless specified by the customer. It has even supplied complete production lines for closures around the world. “Our ambition is to be not just a moldmaker, but a solutions provider,” says sales and marketing manager Enrico Bo.
As well as custom molds, Gefit offers standardized molds for a family of cap designs it developed called Miwa. There are Miwa caps for still and sparkling drinks, hot-fill bottles, and wide-necked bottles. Gefit has sold six 64-cavity molds for Miwa caps in Europe, and seven outside Europe.
With the competitive nature of the bottlecap market, low weight, short cycle times, and minimal mold maintenance are critical to a molder’s success. A difference of a fraction of a gram in cap weight can be the measure between success and failure. The lightest Miwa cap is just 1.5 g; just a few years ago, it was around 3 g. Until three years ago, cycle times for such caps were around 6 s; now, a Gefit mold can achieve 3-s cycles. “We have studied cap geometries to minimize their production cycle times, mostly by reducing weight,” says Bo. Gefit’s goal is to reduce the current time by 10 to 20% in another year.
While cap molds represent 80% of the unit’s business, it also makes molds for related applications such as pump sprays and aerosols, as well as tooling for thinwall cups and technical products like optical-disc jewel boxes, medical parts, electrical/electronic components, and irrigation tubing drips.
Around three years ago, Gefit diversified into molds for PET preforms, with its automation division offering take-out and cooling equipment. It has patents pending on a system that cools preforms for up to five cycles before dropping them onto a conveyor. It plans to concentrate on smaller molds with up to 48 cavities, and molds for special designs. Bo says there is no intention to build ultra-high-cavitation preform molds.
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